UCLA men’s water polo claims victory against Pepperdine in home opener
Freshman Mo Kenney made his collegiate debut for UCLA men’s water polo versus Pepperdine, scoring five goals en route to a victory. (Elise Tsai/Daily Bruin)
Men's water polo
|No. 5 Pepperdine||9|
|No. 2 UCLA||15|
By Kyle Boal
Feb. 1, 2021 3:44 p.m.
Two newcomers stole the show at Spieker Aquatics Center.
No. 2 UCLA men’s water polo (3-2, 2-2 MPSF) never trailed in its 15-9 victory over No. 5 Pepperdine (2-1) in the team’s home opener, as the Bruins won their 20th consecutive matchup against the Waves.
Coach Adam Wright said the 448-day gap between home games may have been the longest in school history and put added pressure on his team to perform early.
“It’s a good win, but we’d like to start off a little bit better – I don’t know if it was playing at home for the first time,” Wright said. “I mean, it’s been a really long time, probably longest time in the history of UCLA men’s water polo that we hadn’t been playing at home. We would like to get to a point where it doesn’t really matter where we’re playing and just be consistent all four quarters.”
Two freshman attackers – Mo Kenney and Tanner Pulice – combined for nine points of the team’s 15 goals. While Pulice has been a consistent starter and one of only three Bruins to score in every game so far this year, Kenney made his collegiate debut Saturday.
Shooting 5-of-6 from the pool, Kenney led all scorers in the matchup but said the team focuses much more on defense than offense.
“I think just our whole team set around defense and then on offense looking for whoever’s open at the time,” Kenney said. “The defense is the main part of our team chemistry.”
Last season’s leading scorer for the Waves and two-time All-American attacker Balazs Kosa was held to two goals – under his season average of 4.5 – as sophomore goalkeeper Bernardo Maurizi registered six saves in three quarters of play. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Chase Honaker made his Bruin debut in the cage in the final quarter, tallying three saves.
Scoring two goals and adding two assists, Pulice said the Waves gave the Bruins unusual looks, a credit to Pepperdine’s coaching.
“Pepperdine is a great team, they’re super well-coached,” Pulice said. “They got two of the best coaches in the country, and they threw some stuff at us that’s a little bit untraditional in terms of how (California) and USC play. I think we need to do a better job of adjusting to that quicker, going forward when we play some not as high-ranked teams.”
Pulice said he looks forward to continuing to help the team in whatever way possible after improving the Bruins’ record to more than .500 for the first time this season.
“Every day I wake up and I go to practice with hopes of making my teammates better, hoping to make myself better, in whatever way that may be to ultimately win a national championship every year I’m here,” Pulice said.
UCLA is set to play next at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center versus No. 2 Cal on Saturday in a conference matchup.